Antonio Conte has called on Juventus to bounce back from Thursday’s Europa League reverse by claiming a crucial three points against relegation threatened Sassuolo on Monday night.
The Bianconeri travel to Reggio Emilia looking to re-establish their eight-point supremacy after nearest challengers Roma cut the gap to five with Friday evening’s victory over Milan at the Stadio Olimpico.
But with Eusebio Di Francesco’s return to the Neroverdi dugout sparking a recent upturn in fortunes, Conte knows that his men must be on their game if they are to put a dent in Sassuolo’s survival hopes and take a giant step towards securing a historic third consecutive league title.
Before considering the game, though, the Bianconeri boss began by expressing his sorrow at the death of former Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova.
Speaking to the media in Vinovo, the 44-year-old said: “I would like to start by remembering Tito Vilanova, not just a fine manager, but an example of great strength, courage and dignity. I send my warmest wishes to his family.
“Monday’s game is fundamental. Winning it would enable us to put our hands on the Scudetto. It won’t be easy because we’re up against a team fighting for survival, but we’ll try and get closer to achieving our primary objective of winning the title.”
Conte then moved on to consider the recent comments made by Giallorossi boss Rudi Garcia, who brought into question the effort and commitment of other teams when lining up against Juventus.
“I’m surprised by his comments. I don’t think that Serie A teams need Garcia to motivate them when they play us. We’ve been leading the way for three years and whoever plays faces us always pulls out all the stops. I’d also say that Garcia’s words represent a lack of respect for the coaches who pick their teams, players who take to the field, clubs who spend money to achieve their objectives and the fans themselves.”
On the injury front, the Juventus manager revealed that midfielder Arturo Vidal is edging closer to a comeback but remained tight lipped on the prospect of Andrea Barzagli returning to the starting line-up.
“Vidal underwent a specific workout yesterday and should be able to link up with the rest of the group today. Tevez has had a few problems, but has been handled excellently by our medical staff and now is in good shape. Barzagli has had a troubled season from a fitness point of view and we'll see how he is for tomorrow. Thankfully we’ve got Caceres who is putting in great performances.”
With Monday night’s clash in Reggio Emilia immediately followed by Thursday’s crunch Europa League semi-final second leg against Benfica, Conte concluded by calling on the fans to raise the roof during an energy-sapping moment of the campaign.
“It’s the first time we’ve been fighting on two fronts at this stage of the season. We’ll need our fans in Reggio Emilia and on Thursday against Benfica. Everything becomes easier with their support.”